The president of the development company that owns Arlington's Colonial Village apartment complex yesterday described a controversial redevelopment plan approved for the site as a "fair compromise."

"We ended up with a good master plan that is responsive to a variety of interests," said James W. Todd, president of the Mobil Corp, subsidiary that owns the complex.

Construction of high-rise office buildings -- the most controversial part of a plan that will include the erection of a mixture of condominiums and cooperative apartments -- is at least two years away, Todd said.

The first construction, Todd said, will involve the erection of 131 new apartments on a largely undeveloped part of the site. He said construction on that phase should be under way sometime in late 1980 or early 1981.

The Arlington County Board early yesterday approved a rezoning for the project despite strong opposition from citizen groups. The project is seen by county officials as the first move toward major redevelopment along the recently opened Metro Orange Line subway extension. The new office buildings, for example, will be across the street from Metro's Courthouse station.

In order to accommodate the influx of workers expected to commute to the new offices, a $1 million underground pedestrian tunnel will be built between the subway stop and the offices.

Mobil has agreed to pay for three-fourths of the tunnel's cost and the county will pay the balance.

The redevelopment plan won approval by a 3-to-2 vote as the board concluded a stormy meeting that lasted until 2 a.m.

Voting in favor of the plan were Chairman Dorothy Grotos and members Walter L. Frankland Jr. and Stephen Detwiler, all Republicans. Democratic-endorsed board members Ellen M. Bozman and John W. Purdy voted against the rezoning.

Opponents of the rezoning argued the plan would disrupt the area; that it would increase traffic on nearby streets and that the high rises would tower over a nearby elementary school.